Man Hit With Reburial Fee After Floods Unearth Wife's Coffin

Richard Lee files suit against funeral home after wife's casket floats out of vault
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2015 7:53 AM CDT
Man Hit With Reburial Fee After Floods Unearth Wife's Coffin
Curious onlookers walk along a closed path next to the Trinity River in Dallas on Saturday, May 30, 2015. The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for portions of Central and South Texas, which could see as much as five inches of rain Saturday if a storm system stalls over the area.   (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)

Richard Lee got a disturbing call last week that was quickly followed by even more disturbing news: The coffin of his wife, Carolyn, buried in 2007, had floated to the surface after intense flooding in Houston, the Houston Chronicle reports—and to rebury her, Lee would have to pay a discounted reburial fee. Lee didn't even believe the deacon from Mount Olive Baptist Church when he got the call, because his wife had been interred in a sealed concrete vault. But sure enough, when he arrived at Riceville Cemetery, Lee recognized the casket, which had floated at least 50 yards before it stopped along a guardrail, KHOU reports. "I didn't want to look inside because I'd never get that out of my mind," he tells the Chronicle. According to an inspector Lee commissioned: The vault wasn't sealed correctly, and there were no built-in holes to allow floodwaters to pass in and out, the newspaper notes.

"Clearly something went wrong here," Lee's lawyer, Annie McAdams, says, per the Chronicle. "Bodies are not supposed to come up." Lee's lawsuit against Robinson Funeral Home not only alleges negligence in burying his wife, but also says it caused him anguish after his wife's "charcoaled and sunken" face was described to him, the paper says. "I was distraught. … I couldn't believe this happened. … It reopened the wound I had," he tells KHOU. An injunction was filed on Lee's behalf yesterday to keep the gravesite clear while they try to figure out what happened. "We want to make sure that everybody that's buried there has the proper vaulting so this never happens to another family," McAdams tells KHOU. Meanwhile, another local funeral home has stepped up to the plate and will re-inter Lee's wife free of charge, the Chronicle notes. (This happened in full force in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.